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If you’re in the communication business, you need to communicate

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘40 freelance copywriting survival tips‘. It’s one of my most read posts, and when I go back through it, I reckon it makes a lot of sense.

Point number 11 says, ‘When things get tough with a client, pick up the phone.’

This was something I begrudgingly learned when I was running a creative agency.

I’d gone from being a pampered Creative Director to business owner. Like most of us, I’d had no formal training in dealing with tricky things like awkward clients. Luckily, my business partner came from a Client Services background, so she helped me to swim in the murky seas of the grown up business world.

The joy of client relationships

One particular client I looked after was very high maintenance. If we were working on one of their projects, it would be completely normal to get 20 emails a day from them. And that was when things were going smoothly.

If a job had a sticky point, let’s say a deadline had been moved or a typo had slipped through the net, my inbox would go bananas.

I could easily spend a couple of hours a day fielding and responding to emails. It was painful and draining.

I must have been having a bit of a whinge one day, when my business partner said something so simple, yet so profound; “Why don’t you just give ’em a call?”

I’d got into the habit of playing crappy email tennis. Taking one step forward then slipping ten back, because of misinterpretations and unread footnotes.

“But, I need it in black and white. I need a paper trail to refer back to”, said I, grasping on to old habits.

“You can always send an email later, to get sign-off on whatever you chat about.”

Yep, logical, but I still felt uncomfortable with the idea. But I took a deep breath and gave it a go.

Immediately, the trail of Chinese whispers ended. The subtleties of what we were trying to get across were so much easier to convey. Barriers came down and I could feel the weight lifting from my shoulders.

The human behind the screen

Email was great for communicating facts, sending attachments and nailing contract details, but I found that picking up the phone helped to build the relationship. Damn, it was even actually enjoyable.

Yes, we’re all time poor. Yes, it sometimes feels easier to ping off an email. But, if you want to actually discuss something, and an in-the-flesh, face-to-facer is impractical, there’s a lot to be said for a telephone natter or zoom meeting between two actual human beings.

We’ve all become way too comfortable hiding behind our screens. 90% of the Copywriters I know would probably call themselves introverts, and I totally get the urge to not speak to scary ‘strangers’. But they’re not strangers, they’re our clients. And the closer we can get to them, the better the outcome.

So, next time you’re into an epic email rally that’s giving you nothing beyond RSI, just pick up the phone.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
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drop me a line here, or email